In coma: Sarabjit, is Sethi's interim government too?

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Sarabjit Singh
New Delhi, May 1: As Sarabjit Singh is declared to be "slipping into an irreversible coma", it is difficult to ignore the apparent silence of Najam Sethi, the care-taker chief minister of Punjab province in Pakistan.

The seasoned journalist's deafening silence on the matter comes as a surprise, for he isn't someone one expects to remain silent in such a situation.

Ever since the attack on Sarabjit in Kot Lakhpat jail, officials had informed media that couple of prison officials including assistant superintendent, had been suspended. However, that isn't the case as sources informed PTI that not a single official was suspended yet.

Only notices have been issued to seven Kot Lakhpat officials including - Mohsin Rafiq, superintendent; Ishtiaq Ahmed Gill, additional superintendent and Sawar Sumera, asking them to explain why action shouldn't be taken against them for their failure to protect Sarabjit. Malik Mubashir, deputy inspector general of police (Prisons), conducted an inquiry that pointed out several security lapses however, it failed to hold anyone, in particular responsible, for the incident.

Yet, the government under Najam Sethi, haven't made any formal statement on the assault. Sethi's not condemned the incident publicly nor taken any action against the inspector general of prisons, Narooq Nazir, who failed to provide Singh protection.

Post Afzal Guru's hanging in Delhi, Singh's lawyer, Awais Sheikh warned prison officials that there will be possible threat to Singh's life. However, jail officials had informed media that they had "adequate security measures" in place, to protect Sarabjit from any possible backlash. Even claimed that they had shifted him to a special cell to avert any untoward incident.

Under Sethi's leadership, the interim government has been reluctant to hold thorough investigations, this inaction has raised concerns over the fair handling of the incident.

A senior journalist like Sethi is seen as a fairly liberal voice from Pakistan, therefore, it comes as a surprise that his government has issued a gag order, refraining prison officials and state-run hospital staffers to speak with media on the issue.

Forty-nine-year-old Sarabjit Singh, sustained several injuries, including a skull fracture, when he was attacked by six prisoners in Kot Lakhpat Jail on Friday afternoon.

Two death row prisoners who were charged for the attack, reportedly told investigators that they planned to attack Sarabjit because of his alleged involvement in bombings in Lahore.

Sarabjit was convicted of alleged involvement in a string of bomb attacks in Punjab province that killed 14 people in 1990. His mercy petitions were rejected by the courts and former President Pervez Musharraf.

The outgoing Pakistan People’s Party-led government put off Sarabjit's execution for an indefinite period in 2008. Sarabjit's family says he is the victim of mistaken identity and had inadvertently strayed across the border in an inebriated state.

(With inputs from PTI)

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